Summer is almost here! But with extreme heat and humidity can also come new health issues for your horse. During the summer season, it is important to listen to your horse and pick up on signs that they may be too hot or uncomfortable. To keep your horse happy and healthy this summer, follow these tips and tricks!
Tips To Keep Your Horse Healthy This Summer
Keep Your Horse Hydrated and Cool
The ultimate solution to keeping your horse comfortable in summer is water. Horses drink about 5 to 15 gallons of water per day. During the summer heat, it is important to have a cool water source to bathe post-exercise. You can also keep cool fans blowing to circulate air and alleviate body heat. This is particularly important for horses who do not sweat. As horses sweat in extreme heat, they lose water through sweat. If water lost through sweat is not replaced quickly, it can lead to dehydration. Always make sure that your horse has access to clean, cold water in the summertime.
To further combat dehydration, you can add electrolytes to your horse’s diet. Electrolytes are essential minerals to keep the body functioning and in perfect shape. Common electrolytes in the body include: sodium, potassium, chloride, calcium, magnesium, phosphate, and bicarbonate. When these minerals dissolve in fluid they are called electrolytes. Electrolytes are positive and negative ions used in metabolic processes. Electrolytes are essential for numerous body processes including the support of nerve endings, muscle function, and most of all hydration. Electrolyte additives can be sprinkled on the feed or added into their water bucket. To check if your horse is dehydrated, you can perform a quick test called the “pinch test”. All you need to do is pinch a small area of skin on your horse’s neck and see how long it takes to return to normal. Do this on a cool day when your horse is calm to get a baseline measurement. If it takes the skin noticeably longer to return to normal, then the horse is dehydrated. Remember, the key to overall body function is to ensure proper hydration!
Provide Shade and Ventilation
Always allow your horse access to a shady area to cool off. Provide good ventilation in barns and trailers to promote airflow and keep horses comfortable. Always check for good ventilation in the stalls or provide fans where proper ventilation may be lacking. If the current shade or ventilation is poor, consider investing in an awning or an air conditioning system.
Listen to Your Horse's Vitals
To make sure your horse stays healthy, you can also take a baseline of their vitals and monitor them on a hot day. When your horse is at rest and cool, take their baseline vitals and write them down in a safe place. Generally, the horse's temperature will stay around 100-101 degrees Fahrenheit. If the horse’s body temperature rises above 102 or 104, take caution and visit a veterinarian. An average horse’s pulse at rest will be 36-42 beats per minute. Heart rate will increase during high-stress situations but should return to normal within 10-15 minutes. Proper respiration should be 8 to 15 breaths per minute at rest. Avoid riding during the extreme heat of summer and always monitor your horse’s vitals on a hot day.
Protect from Infectious Diseases and Insect Borne Illnesses
Prior to summer, make sure that your horse is up to date on their immunizations for infectious diseases. Horses with breathing problems may be particularly at risk during the hot summer months. The risk for mosquito-borne illnesses rises in the late summer and early fall, so it is important to stay up to date on all vaccinations for insect-borne illnesses.
Boost Parasite Protection
Summer is also an active time for parasite transmission. Horses on drylot, in stalls, or out to pasture are particularly vulnerable to parasites. Follow a parasite management plan advised by your veterinarian. Perform a pre-summer wellness examination with your veterinarian to update vaccinations.
Above all, it is important to have fun with your horse during the beautiful summer months. Keep these helpful tips in mind in order to keep your horse happy and healthy. Keep your horse safe from the heat with hydration, shade, ventilation, and by checking their vitals. You can also protect your horse from infectious diseases this summer by getting vaccinations and visiting your veterinarian. Follow all of these guidelines and your horse will have the best summer ever!